For the past six months, Lady Julia Grey has been traveling in Italy with her brothers, recuperating from her brush with death at the end of her investigation into her husband's murder. In all that time, she hasn't heard a word from Nicholas Brisbane. All she has of him is a silver pendant and the memory of the endless kiss they shared on Hampstead Heath. (Insert much emoting and throbbing of voice there. And also possibly violins and lightning.)
Due to an angry summons from their father, the three siblings pack up and head home for the Christmas holidays with their friend Alessandro -- a young, handsome (and single!) Italian count -- in tow. Little does Lady Julia know that Nicholas Brisbane will also be a guest at the house party... or that he is now engaged to be married. Or that the house party, already rife with tension, will be the setting for MURDER. And possibly a GHOSTLY PRESENCE.
I do love these books. Lady Julia continues to be rather Amelia Peabody-ish, all take-charge-y and attitudinal, and Brisbane continues to be brilliant and just the right kind of tortured (he broods, but is also snarky and able to laugh on occasion -- like a cross between Sherlock Holmes, Radcliffe Emerson and Angel). So obviously the romance part of it was fun -- and unlike many other situations like this, in which the heroine is confronted with the sight of HER MAN involved with ANOTHER WOMAN (see Last Train to Memphis), Lady Julia isn't having any of it. She doesn't get all insecure and mopey, because she knows that there's no way on Earth that Nicholas Brisbane would voluntarily get involved with a simpering ninny like Charlotte King. But obviously there's something strange going on, and she's going to find out what it is...
And the mystery part of it works as well -- there's the Brisbane Engagement question, there's the How Did Brisbane Get Injured Question, there's the ghost, there's the MURRRDERRR... and I think I might be forgetting one. Oh, right, the attempted poisoning. And, sad as this is, I'd actually read this book before and I still couldn't remember how it all worked. So nothing was hugely obvious, which was nice, but the author offers up some clues, too, so that's nice as well.
Oh, and quite a bit of the end-of-the-chapter foreshadowing, especially towards the beginning of the book:
We exchanged a smile, and I thought then that this might very well be the most interesting house party that Bellmont Abbey had seen since Shakespeare had spent a fortnight here, confined to bed with a spring cold. Of course, I was entirely correct about that, but for reasons I could never have imagined.
Hooray. Just plain great fun, with a swoony kick. I'm so happy that I have an ARC of the next book in the series.